Monday, August 24, 2009

(Edited for clarification) Grilled Filet with Pimento Cheese, Asiago Cheese Grits with Caramlized Onion

Last Saturday night we and another couple had a dinner party - it was for friends who are expecting a baby. We're all six friends and the guys practically grew up together - they've been friends for more than 20 years.

This party was kind of a big deal - an excuse to get together with friends, a chance to try out some over the top recipes, and also...a baby to celebrate!

We had filet mignon topped with pimento cheese (seriously), Asiago cheese grits with caramlized onion, salad with feta, walnuts, and dried cranberries, green beans tossed with butter and slivered almonds, and chocolate cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

It was a light dinner, obviously.

We must have spent two hours around the dining room table, talking, laughing, and, you know, eating. Good times.

Asiago Cheese Grits

• 4 cups water
• 4 cups milk
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon white pepper
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1 1/4 cups stoneground grits
• 1/2 pound asiago (or fontina) cheese, grated

In a large pot, over medium heat, combine the water, milk, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.

In the meantime, chop up a yellow onion. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add the onions and let cook until they get a bit soft. At that point salt and pepper the onions, turn the heat to low, cover, and let them cook, stirring occasionally. Smells so good.

Stir in the grits to the big pot with the water and the milk.

Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring often. (note: do not scrape the bottom of the pan.)

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cheese.

Stir in the caramlized onions and serve.

We had leftovers and while I didn't try it, I bet you could spread the grits into a small baking sheet, chill thoroughly, cut out pieces and pan fry them for a side dish the next day.

Pimento-Cheese-Topped Steak

I wish I could take the credit for this recipe. It's genuis. I'd love to know who thought of this. We first had it at a restaurant in Charleston last year and it was out of this world.

Mix up pimento cheese the night before or several nights before.

Prepare filets, as in get the butcher to cut some beauties for you, let them come to room temperature, rub them with worcestershire sauce, and sprinkle with Montreal steak seasoning.

Grill! You know, light it, let it burn, get hot, all that.

About three, four minutes before the steaks come off the grill, top with a bit of pimento cheese.

For the green beans, we steamed them in the rice cooker and then put a bit of butter on them while they were good and hot and topped them with some toasted slivered almonds just before serving.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Roasted Shrimp with Peppers and Lemon

Real Simple magazine did a story about weeknight meals with pantry staples - or something like that - and this was one of them.

I love shrimp and this makes enough for leftovers, and that makes me happy.

• 1 cup long-grain white rice
• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 lemon, thinly sliced
• 6 sprigs fresh thyme
• 4 scallions, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch pieces
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 pound frozen large peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the rice according to the package directions.

The recipe doesn't mind being tinkered with - when I made it the other day, I used a yellow pepper instead of red. When I realized we didn't have any scallions I and chopped up a pearl onion instead.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the bell pepper, lemon, thyme, scallions, crushed red pepper, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Spread on a rimmed baking sheet (reserving the bowl).

Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss with the paprika, the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Nestle the shrimp in the bell peppers on the baking sheet. Roast until the shrimp are cooked through and the bell peppers are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

(My two cents: The shrimp take no time to cook - like 8 minutes. The strips of bell pepper are nowhere close to being done by then. Next time, I'm going to saute the bell pepper strips first, just a bit, in olive oil. I like them to still have a nice satisfying crunch but I want them cooked, not raw.)

Serve over the rice.

To freeze: No need to thaw the shrimp. Just divide all the ingredients among 4 freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
To cook: Transfer the frozen ingredients to a baking sheet and roast at 450° F for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve with cooked long-grain white rice.

The next day, I got to have this wonderful grilled shrimp salad. I chopped the shrimp and a few roasted bell peppers, added them to spinach, and topped it with a vinaigrette. So good!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself."

Fascinating article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan. It's about how the popularity of cooking shows and shows about food and eating are rising - skyrocketing - in popularity while people are actually cooking much less.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maybe I'll Just Stick To Watching It On the Tee Vee

During the first episode of The Next Food Network Star, I picked Jeffrey, Zen Jeffrey, not to be confused with my Jeffrey, to win. He didn’t but he made it to the final round.

Melissa won. Melissa is perky and happy and some people already dislike her as much as they do Rachel Ray. I like Melissa and when she made prepared this chicken dish with onions and lemon juice as part of the final competition, Jeffrey and I both liked the way it looked and the ease of preparation and we made plans to cook it for Sunday dinner.

When I’m cooking, I like to get out all the ingredients and measure them out before starting on the recipe. That’s part of the fun, and it makes everything go smoothly.

Plus I get to use these bowls.

We got them at a gourmet shop in Charleston. I love them.

I measured out 1/4 cup white wine in one and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in another. I flattened the chicken breasts, poured the oil in the pan, and heated it. When I put the chicken in the pan, it didn’t sizzle. I picked up the red bowl and smelled the liquid in it. Olive oil. The olive oil that was supposed to be in the skillet cooking the chicken.

“What, please tell me, did I put in that pan?”

Jeffrey peered in the pan and said, “That would be white wine.”

I added the olive oil but by then the chicken was beginning to cook/boil/steam in white wine. When the chicken got done, which seemed to take forever, it stuck to the pan, probably because it had been bizarrely cooked in white wine rather than sautéed in olive oil. Then it was time for the red onions to go in the same pan, cook up nice and slow, then you deglaze the pan with chicken stock.

Jeffrey poured in the bowl of red onions. The skillet was dry so I poured in a few tablespoons of chicken stock.

Jeffrey said, “I think the onions were supposed to cook down first.”

I looked at the recipe and sure ‘nough.

“Oh, well!” I said because, what else could you say? The dish was already far too gone by that point.

The onions cooked down some and I added the rest of the chicken stock and the lemon juice. They cooked and cooked.

It was hot in the kitchen. From April to September, we plan a lot of meals around not heating up the kitchen. It’s too hot. This particular meal was an especially bad idea on my part as it was mostly sautéing with a big pan over a big eye on medium heat. The oven was going, too, with the potatoes au gratin.

The spinach that the chicken was supposed to lay on could have gone in the microwave, but I like to sauté some onion and garlic first before adding in the spinach so I cooked the spinach on the stovetop, too. Because it wasn’t quite hot enough in there, you know.

I went to chop an onion to find we didn’t any more onions. Screw it. A shallot and two cloves of garlic will have to do.

Then once all that mess finally got done we pulled the potatoes au gratin out to find they weren’t quite done. I couldn’t get a fork through them. Jeffrey thought they were close enough; they’d been in there the 40 minutes the recipe I called for. I kept trying to stab one with a fork and the potatoes valiantly resisted the fork so we threw them back in the oven and closed the door. Hot, it was hot in that kitchen.

Ten minutes or so later we called it done. Whatever, is what we were at that point. I’d already thought about the hot dogs that I knew were in the fridge. If worse came to worse, I wouldn’t be above heating one up for dinner.

We turned an au gratin out onto a plate. Funny. On the pilot, Melissa’s were golden brown and crusty with cream and butter and cheese. Ours looked pale and wan, like someone who needed to spend more time outdoors.

We placed a chicken breast atop the spinach bed and topped the chicken with some of the stupid red onion mess and sat down to eat. It was edible.

The chicken didn’t have much flavor. I’d seasoned it as directed, with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. The recipe called for dredging the chicken in flour – plain old white flour. I couldn’t have that. I seasoned that naked white flour with creole spice and pepper. Still, no flavor.

After a few bites one of us said, “Well. It’s not awful.”

Contrast that with the night before when we did a trial run of a menu we’re having for a dinner party this coming weekend: I took one bite and put down my fork to clap my hands. I was so happy everything tasted so good.

With this meal I shrugged after each bite.

Massive fail.

I would say that I’ve learned to read the directions from start to finish before beginning but I already know that all too well. I did it, too, then got distracted and busy and went off course. It’s not really Melissa’s fault that I didn’t follow the recipe. We’ll try it again, probably in November when it’s cooler.

Rustic Chicken with Onions and Lemons

· 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced in half crossways (butterflied, cut all the way through)
· 1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus 1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves chopped
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 4 tablespoons olive oil
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 red onion, thinly sliced
· 1/4 cup white wine, optional
· 1 cup chicken broth
· 3 lemons, juiced
· 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
· Spinach "bed", recipe follows

Season chicken with dried thyme and salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Dredge the chicken in flour, add to the hot oil and saute until cooked through. Set chicken aside to rest on plate tented with foil.

In same saute pan, over low heat, add onions and fresh thyme and cook until aromatic.

In a measuring cup, measure out wine, if using, and broth, and add the lemon juice.

Turn the heat up to high, and deglaze the pan with the broth mixture until starting to reduce.

Remove the pan from the heat and finish the sauce by whisking in butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place a bed of cooked spinach on a serving platter, top with the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Spinach "bed":
· 1 bag pre-washed fresh spinach
· 3 tablespoons water
· 1 tablespoon butter
· 1 lemon, juiced
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Microwave spinach in a microwave-proof dish with a few tablespoons of water on high for 5 to 6 minutes, or until hot. Drain, and toss with butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Individual Potato Au Gratins


· Vegetable spray
· 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
· 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
· 2 green onions, finely chopped
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Citrus Shrimp

That was an extended, unintentional break! We've been cooking lots, it's just... You know how you mean to do something and you keep saying, "I need to do that!" and you keep saying it and then you need to do this, too, and then that, and before you know it all the photos and posts and recipes and funny stories become a towering stack of procrastination at its finest?

That's kind of what happened.

We're back on track now.

Jeffrey came up with this. It is summer on a plate - citrusy and light.

Summer Citrus Shrimp

2 pounds of jumbo shrimp (16-20 count)
2 lemons
1 lime
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 bunch green onions, with a few inches of green, thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt

Peel and devein shrimp. Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons and 1 lime into a medium bowl - enough to make about 3 tablespoons citrus juice. Add remaining ingredients - all except the shrimp - and mix well. Add shrimp and stir well once more. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

If you're using wooden skewers, about now would be the time to soak them in water.

Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Grill over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes being careful not to overcook. Serves 4.

Or serves 2 and you can save the leftover shrimp and enjoy over a spinach salad the next day for lunch. Or diced up and folded inside a flour tortilla as a shrimp quesadilla.